Pilot No Stranger to Crashes

By: Stacy McCloud
By: Stacy McCloud

Knoxville (WVLT) - A World War II pilot and his nephew were getting set to land their plane at Knoxville's Downtown airport, when something went wrong and the plane ran off the runway and into Fort Loudoun Lake.

"I used to instruct off of this runway when it was nothing but a dirt runway," flying certainly isn't a foreign subject to 89-year-old Clayton Keith. "I've been in B-17's, oh I can't go through that, that was during war."

Now he flies for fun. "I like to do aerobatics, I like to do rolls, loops"

He's taken off and landed from this runway literally hundreds of times, but his Monday morning leisure flight with his nephew ended in deep water.

"I mean wet, all the way through," he says.

At almost six feet tall, Mr. Keith tells WVLT he still has to put a cushion behind his back to help him reach the petals on his 1977 Mooney.

But after touching down Monday morning, he still couldn't reach the brakes.

"When I hit the runway I hit it pretty hot, I didn't use flaps, then I reached for the brakes and couldn't get them. Right off the end," Keith says.

Despite knowing he was going to crash, "I told him get out Ron because it's going down," Keith says he wasn't scared, that's because he's been in this situation before.

"That's my third one"

Third crash that is. His first one was years ago, he can thank the weather for that one. The second was all part of a dare.

Mr. Keith says this time, he knows it could have been worse had his nephew not pulled him out.

"I was sinking and I was trying to turn over and he had a hold of me," Keith recalls.

Still it's not enough to keep him from flying again.

"Won't stop me, you know like they say about a cat and 9 lives," Keith jokes.

The FAA is investigating the crash.

As far as the plane is concerned, the FAA says that it's up to the owner to remove it from Fort Loudoun Lake. Keith told us, it can just stay there as far as he's concerned, even though he only bought it about a month ago!


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